Integrations in eCommerce: a Challenge and an Opportunity
The importance of integrations in eCommerce has grown over time. A few years back integrations were still somewhat rare on eCommerce websites whereas today most eMerchants integrate their store onto many different platforms and systems. ECommerce companies, however, seem to have a twofold take on integrations: where they could be a great asset on an eCommerce website, at the same time they're seen as main tech barrier to online business growth. A new report from Econsultancy, in partnership with Neoworks, has found that integration with current/legacy systems remains the biggest challenge when expanding an ecommerce business, cited by 43% of company respondents.
Benefits of Integrations:
1. Combining online stores with brick and mortar stores
As services move online more and more brick and mortar store vendors launch an online store to support their business. Integrations are thus used to narrow down the gap between online and offline stores. This is often done with a POS system integration with the help of which details such as items in stock, prices, product descriptions and orders may be fluently transferred between the two systems. Along with POS system integrations many eCommerce companies also integrate with finance management systems and/or product management and ERP software.
The main justification for integrations relating to cash flow or product and stock management is that these integrations help in keeping all of the information relating to products and orders up-to-date. Having information up-to-date again improves the quality of customer service. Stores with a wide product range often have no choice but to carry out integrations since maintaining a vast amount of product information simultaneously in two different systems is quite frankly impossible (or at least really challenging). You may read more about the theme in one of our previous articles: Online and offline stores – a good match or a separate brand?
2. Concentrating on the core
Acquiring services by a third party and integrating onto these services could be one step forward in concentrating on the core activities of an online store. Running an eCommerce business is quite the job with many different things to take care of, so every once in a while it's good to sit down and estimate which parts of the business you devote most of the daily working time to. Is it warehousing, collecting, packaging, shipping, returns or refunds? Or is it the development of your sales processes and marketing? Outsourcing the warehousing of your products, for example, might release an important amount of resources to develop other parts of your business, such as sales and marketing. Maintaining functions in-house that are not at the core your business require time, work force, assets, business premises and IT-investments.
3. Unifying different parts of the business
Integrations are used to unify different parts of the business even in cases with no up-and-running brick and mortar stores. An example of this are integrations with the manufacture's product catalogues or product management systems from where existing and upcoming product details, descriptions and images are imported and automatically updated. Integrations with logistics services are also quite common as they make the delivery chain more fluent and more transparent to the buyer.
4. Multichannel marketing
Integrations with various marketing channels help raise awareness and expose the store's offering with new audiences. Quite common these days are integrations with social media channels such as Facebook or Twitter. The integration with a social media channel usually appears as a plug-in at the store (Share this item/rate this product, etc.) or as customized social media layouts. Social media plug-ins could be used to share products, collect opt-in subscribers for newsletters or to share the store's updates, campaigns and bargains. At it's best social media integrations encourage sharing and play an important role in purchase decisions.
Marketing integrations may also be used to personalize shopping experience by product recommendations, as Nosto-service does. Moreover, many eCommerce websites integrate with the email marketing software in use. The integration with email marketing software could ease subscriber management by automatically importing new customers onto the mailing lists. Moreover, automatically generated content can be used to quickly form graphic newsletters based on what's shown at the store.
5. Scale advantages
Integrations may also help in gaining scale advantages. Such advantages are gained if an integration is carried out to a third party: for example a portal or a platform that presents your offering in another environment. Simple examples of this are portals for price and product comparison from where people can browse and sort products offered by various merchants. In addition there are different kinds of multivendor portals that gather vendors of a specific product category or products that relate to each other in a meaningful way. These kind of third-party portals might bring both scale advantages and exposure to completely new audiences outside of your existing clientele.
The Challenge of Integrations
As the report from Econsultancy and Neoworks presents, integrations are far from being a piece of cake. First of all there is a vast amount of different services to integrate to and new ones appear frequently. What is crucial to an eCommerce company is thus to be able to identify which integrations are actually meaningful and needed to your business. Equally important is choosing an eCommerce platform that evolves and has the capacity to carry out new integrations if needed.
LianaCommerce -platform has been integrated to several different systems related to marketing, financial transactions, and logistics. Our view on integrations is above all customer-oriented: our mission is to build online stores that not only make sales but save resources. If new integrations are needed to new systems, our competent development team is there to make it happen. Ask us more!